Through July, the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC) established Islam as the national religion, but stated that “(a)ll citizens of the Somali Republic have the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without distinction of race, birth, language, religion, sex, or political affiliation.” The TFC did not prohibit apostasy or the propagation of any religion other than Islam.
The provisional federal constitution replaced the TFC in August. It establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits laws that do not comply with Sharia principles. It states that all citizens, regardless of religion, are afforded equal rights and duties before the law and that each person is free to practice his or her religion, but prohibits propagation of religions other than Islam. The provisional federal constitution does not explicitly prohibit apostasy or denouncing one’s religion.
The Puntland constitution, adopted by a constituent assembly on April 18, states that no one can be forced to adhere to a faith different from one’s own beliefs. It prohibits apostasy for Muslims and propagation of any religion other than Islam. The Puntland authorities interpret this section of the Puntland constitution to mean that conversion from Islam to other religions is prohibited.
The Somaliland constitution protects the right of freedom of belief. However, it states that Islamic law does not accept Muslim apostasy, prohibits preaching in a mosque on “matters that would divide the nation,” and prohibits the promotion of any religion other than Islam. Somaliland authorities interpret this portion of the Somaliland constitution to mean that conversion from Islam to other religions is prohibited.
The penal code developed in 1963 applies to all regions of the country. It does not prohibit conversion from Islam, but criminalizes blasphemy and defamation of Islam, which carry fines of up to two years in prison.
The provisional federal constitution requires that the president be Muslim. The Somaliland constitution requires that candidates for president, vice president, and the house of representatives be Muslim. The Puntland state constitution requires that its president be Muslim. The provisional federal constitution and Puntland state constitution make no such requirement for ministerial, parliamentiary, or prime ministerial positions.
The provisional federal constitution describes the Federal Republic of Somalia as a Muslim country. The Somaliland constitution declares that its laws must derive from and not contradict Islam. The Puntland constitution stipulates that all laws be based on Islamic law.
The judiciary in most regions relies on Xeer (traditional and customary law), Islamic law, and the 1963 penal code. Legal frameworks vary considerably because each community individually regulates and enforces religious expression, often inconsistently.
The Somaliland constitution restricts the formation of political parties based on a particular religious group, religious beliefs, or interpretation of religious doctrine. The provisional federal constitution and the Puntland constitution do not link political party formation to religion.
Through July, the TFG Ministry of Justice, Endowments and Religious Affairs had authority to register religious groups, but little capacity to register or to shut down unregistered groups, some of which operated without registration. In November the federal parliament approved a new Ministry of Justice, Endowments, and Religious Affairs with authority to register religious groups.
In Puntland, religious schools and places of worship must obtain permission to operate from the Ministry of Justice and Religious Affairs. In Somaliland, religious schools and places of worship must obtain permission to operate from the Ministry of Religion. Neither Puntland nor Somaliland law states explicit consequences for operating without permission.
The new government, like its TFG predecessor and the Puntland and Somaliland administrations, requires Islamic instruction in schools. The TFC exempted non-Muslim students, while the provisional constitution exempts schools owned by non-Muslims.
Private schools are the primary source of education. The majority offer religious instruction. Externally funded madrassahs throughout the country provide inexpensive basic education and generally adhere to Salafist ideology, especially in al-Shabaab controlled areas.
Groups affiliated with the Al-Islah Islamic organization fund and administer Mogadishu University, the University of East Africa in Puntland, and many secondary schools in Mogadishu.
The new government and the authorities in Puntland and Somaliland observe the following religious holidays as national holidays: Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Muharam (Islamic New Year), and Mi’raaj.